Worcestershire v Australians, New Road, 3rd day

Clarke's pressure valve released

Michael Clarke's century in Worcester was an indication of a clear mind.

Daniel Brettig at New Road

July 4, 2013

Comments: 52 | Text size: A | A

Michael Clarke slaps one through leg side, Worcestershire v Australians, Tour match, New Road, 3rd day, July 4, 2013
Michael Clarke has made steadily increasing scores over the past two tour matches © Getty Images

It is no coincidence that Michael Clarke's carefree century against Worcestershire seemed to indicate that a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. In the early days of Darren Lehmann's reign as coach, Clarke has been deliberately given as little to do as possible, maximising his time to strengthen his back and groove his batting for the Ashes battles ahead.

Not since the day Lehmann was appointed has Clarke been required to speak publicly, nor has he been required to participate fully in every training session. Clarke's only statements have been delivered via his bat, with spectators at Taunton and New Road witness to a promisingly ascending score trend of 45, 26, 62 and 124 against Somerset and Worcestershire.

Clarke's off-field leadership had been questioned in the aftermath of the sacking of Lehmann's predecessor Mickey Arthur, flowing on as it did from unsavoury events in India and then England in the early, Champions Trophy-preoccupied weeks of the tour. Lehmann said the best way he could improve Clarke as a captain was to ensure he did not have too much to worry about.

"Take some pressure off him, I reckon that's the biggest way," Lehmann said. "Our role as support staff and people around him is to make sure he gets back to captaining and playing the game and not worrying about the stuff he doesn't really need to worry about, and that's where we come into it, making sure the players are best prepared and can go and play, and have a game plan that suited to the way we want to play. Then he can just go and captain.

"I just hope I take pressure off all the players to be perfectly honest. We've got to let them play the game of cricket, it's a tough enough game at the best of times, so my role is to make sure they're enjoying themselves on and off the field, learning about the game and all those things, and making sure we play a positive brand of cricket."

In this, Lehmann echoed his former South Australia team-mate and Arthur's coaching forebear Tim Nielsen. Interviewed by ESPNcricinfo in 2011 after his exit from the job, Nielsen said Clarke's greatest challenge as captain would be to devote enough time to maintaining his own batting and fitness when so many other issues demanded his attention.

"His biggest challenge will be to make sure he keeps his mind on his batting as well," Nielsen had said. "There's so much going on with the team at the moment, so many distractions, and as a first-time captain of the Australian team full-time, he's going to have so much to do around the place. I just hope he can continue to bat as well as he is at the moment and not let those distractions get in the way.

"If he's playing well, a lot of the stuff looks after itself. I know myself, when I was coaching in that Indian summer [in 2008], you have the attitude of 'stuff keeps happening but I'll keep at it, nothing's too hard', but after a while it can wear you down. So Michael needs to be aware that it can wear him down."

Clarke has already saved himself a good deal of time and worry by divesting himself of selection duty. Lehmann said Clarke would more often than not still have his selection preferences followed, but without the distraction of constant involvement in phone hook-ups and dialogue about matters other than winning the next game.

"He'll still have input, the captain's got to be really comfortable with the side he puts out each and every time I think," Lehmann said. "We speak every day about it, as do Rod [Marsh] and all the selectors. You'd be mad if you didn't use your captain's opinion, I wouldn't want to put a percentage on it, but he'll get pretty much what he wants within reason all the time."

Phillip Hughes, who was at the other end for most of Clarke's Worcester century, reckoned the innings showed a useful window into Clarke's state of mind and body. No longer the harried and immobile figure of the tour's early weeks, he is now looking ready to take the fight to England at Trent Bridge.

"It's a really good statement," Hughes said. "He'd been out of the game for around three months, and to play last week and play well, and today to go on with that three figures was outstanding and pushed the game forward. He's moving really well and not even complaining about it [his back] one bit, and that's a real pleasing thing for himself and all of us as a unit."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge on (July 5, 2013, 21:10 GMT)

Clarke is a genius at hiding down the order and whacking around a 30 over ball, but that's probably why he's never spoken of in the same terms as those batsmen who bat in the top 3 for their respective teams, a position in which sound technique plus bucket loads of run scoring ability is crucial. Cook is an obvious example, but also Dravid and Amla spring to mind. He should have heeded the calls during the India series to move up the order, as the need for leadership at the top of the the Oz batting order was required to provide a good foundation from which to compete. That didn't exist then, and no one would be surprised if it's the same again.

Posted by Big_Maxy_Walker on (July 5, 2013, 18:56 GMT)

Lyon has had numerous oppurtunities on 4th and 5th days to bowl out the tails of teams and has failed. The 4th Indian test was a dead rubber. So you cant read much into that one. He still keeps making the same mistakes. Bowling too fast, not taking his time through his overs, not using the crease effectively. Those problems were pointed out a couple of years ago and he hasn't fixed them. Plus with England full of right handers, that makes Lyon redundant. Need a lefty spinner. Agar or O'Keefe

Posted by YorkshirePudding on (July 5, 2013, 14:43 GMT)

While getting SRT's wicket is a prize any bowler would, the sad truth is that hes seriously in the twilight of his career, and no where near his best, with an averages of 23 in 2012 and 32 in the current year the stats bear this out. Hes not scored a Test century since the start of 2011 (vs SA).

Dont get me wrong hes was great batsmen but his time is over and he should allow the Indian team to move on with the new talent thats around.

(now with my luck he'll come to England in 2014 and score back to back double tons!!!).

Posted by hhillbumper on (July 5, 2013, 14:12 GMT)

wonderstar 1. While not the biggest fan of Lyon fair play to the man he got wickets. He got Tendulkar as well as as the acclaimed greatest batsman ever he can't be that bad.Maybe Tendulkar is that bad though to get out to such a poor bowler?

Posted by AussieSam on (July 5, 2013, 13:27 GMT)


Odd comment. Lyon took the most wickets of any of the Aussie bowlers on the Indian tour (15), even though he was (stupidly) dropped for the 2nd test. And if I remember correctly he bowled Tendulkar in his first spell of the 1st test match. It was just a shame he wasn't backed up by the rest of the bowlers and the batsmen.

Posted by YorkshirePudding on (July 5, 2013, 13:26 GMT)

Lyon could be very usefull if england are chasing a total as the left handers marks will help him on a day 4/5 pitch especially at the Oval and Old Trafford.

More so if he watches where swann bowls and can get the one to bite and turn, along with giving the ball a bit more air then he'll be very useful.

Posted by Hammond on (July 5, 2013, 13:07 GMT)

Let's hope his back can carry the lighter load..

Posted by InvisiblePJs on (July 5, 2013, 12:58 GMT)

@ wonderstar1 - while I agree that Lyon still has a lot to learn to be a top line test spinner, statements like 'He did not pick up a single wicket even on the dustbowls.(like the aussies say) in India' show that you have little idea of what actually happens in the game of cricket. I may mention that in the last test in Delhi, Lyon only managed to take 9 of the 14 Indian wickets to fall in the match, including the 'master' Tendulkar in both innings... or is it perhaps you are suggesting Delhi isn't a 'dustbowl' - more a normal cricket wicket....

Posted by Moppa on (July 5, 2013, 12:50 GMT)

@wonderstar1, er, Lyon took 7 wickets in an innings in Delhi. Re your first post, India won a Test in Perth in 2008, but has never won a series in Australia. Australia last won a series in India in 2004. One recollection of the 2004 series was that the Chennai (or Nagpur?) groundsman was criticised for producing a pitch that was too pace friendly. Anyway, I digress. @64blip, I don't think anyone is saying Lehmann is a genius. Just another tick for his 'common sense' approach. Keep it simple, let the players focus on playing and cut out the off-field distractions. @David Baxter, I'm afraid I have to agree with you - a little bit concerned about a false sense of security with our batsmen. But, given where Australia is coming from, a confidence boost is almost certainly a good thing, regardless of the attack.

Posted by rickyvoncanterbury on (July 5, 2013, 12:12 GMT)

Clarke in form, the aussies on the right track, it has been said for the last 18 months, 1 bad series against spin on the sub continent does not worry me, does anyone remember the poms against pakistan, me I am looking forward to watching the team that got flogged by the true test THE SAFFERS play against the team that took it to the saffers.

Posted by wonderstar1 on (July 5, 2013, 12:08 GMT)

I think the batting also looks okay for Aus. The real problem for them is they dont have a single spinner in their squad. Lyon will be a laughing stock in england as i see. He did not pick up a single wicket even on the dustbowls.(like the aussies say) in India. so, he is not even a bowler IMO.

Posted by LALITHKURUWITA on (July 5, 2013, 11:33 GMT)

It looks like Auusie are on the right track. May be we can see a good fight from Aussies and not a one sided sries.

Posted by RandyOZ on (July 5, 2013, 11:22 GMT)

Simply the best cricketer on Earth at the moment. He will smash the English like he always has!

Posted by 64blip on (July 5, 2013, 11:17 GMT)

Michael Clarke hits a century against CC Division 2 Worcestershire and it's a sign of Lehmann's genius? Come off it.

Posted by mixters on (July 5, 2013, 10:59 GMT)

It is interesting that Front-foot lunge comments get wilder and wilder as the Australian team becomes more settled and there preformance inproves. It could be his (or her) worst fear is becoming a reality. As for Clarke opening? pure desperation on your part Front-foot-lunge. What will you say if they win the first test Clarke should bat at number12?

Posted by dogcatcher on (July 5, 2013, 10:51 GMT)

Whilst I don't want to deride the article too much. The focus is all wrong. The lifting of pressure may assist Clarke as a captain but has more to do with adding cohesion to a team in strife.

There can be no arguement that his batting was in a good place & that 2011/2012 season was one worth cherishing for a long time, barring the Indian tour possibly.

He has always struggled with a back injury, before the appointment of Arthur & one could argue that Arthur had done everything to get him ready for the ashes. I am not convinced Clarke is a good Captain and think the polarisation of the team is as much his doing as Arthur's.

Good on Lehman, but please don't suggest it will allow him to be a better cricketer. That he already was & I don't think he will not reach the heights achieved "under Arthur" again. I personally think should lose skipper status sometime soon.

Far too much propping up of Lehman here. though I suspect he will be a good lets see first how he goes first.

Posted by Mary_786 on (July 5, 2013, 10:36 GMT)

Ozwriter i think you are right and Rogers, Khawaja and Watson will help Clarke push the total to what we need, these 4 will be the crux of our batting strenght.

Posted by popcorn on (July 5, 2013, 10:25 GMT)

What a difference this one decision - to sack Mickey Arthur and bring in Darren Lehman - has madeto the Aussie Team! EVERY one of the Team Members are chipping iin - batting, bowling and fielding! And Michael Clarke is in sublime form! Watch out, Pommies. Australia smASHES England!

Posted by YorkshirePudding on (July 5, 2013, 9:05 GMT)

@Shiva96, I think you mean Worcestershire, though they are easily confused by the none-english members of cricInfo and are geographic neighbours (about 20-30 miles from Birmingham to Worcester).

I agree that it will be a boost for Clarke as time in the middle will have put his mind at ease over the state of his back, and a century on a tour always helps.

Posted by ArunChennai on (July 5, 2013, 8:59 GMT)

I am an Indian. It is great to see Australia showing signs of good form in the warm ups. It is such a joy to see Australia at it's competitive best. Go Australia and regain the Ashes from the Poms and never let it go again!

Posted by ozwriter on (July 5, 2013, 8:41 GMT)

hopefully watson, rogers and khawaja can build a good platform for clarke to push the total past 400/500

Posted by Shiva96 on (July 5, 2013, 8:40 GMT)

I think so far clarke has been doing a good job as a captain except the test series in India ,the century against against warwickshire will surely boost his confidence and team morale.He along with lehmann can make a big difference to the current Australian team which is low in confidence.

Posted by wonderstar1 on (July 5, 2013, 8:36 GMT)

@Praspunter good imagination.We did beat you in your own backyard in bowlers paradise named Perth. hope you remember that. I cant remember when was the last time you beat us in India. its been ages. By the way of talking of tricks, I remember a test in 2008 where a person who is not even aware of cricket and umpires, who tell you that it only favoured one nation and you know the answer already.

Posted by YorkshirePudding on (July 5, 2013, 8:20 GMT)

Clarke is the dangerman from an england persepctive, and England will want to get to him as quick as possible while the shine is on the new ball and they are still 'fresh' just as they managed in the 2010/11 series,

That requires the removal of 3 of the top 4 batsmen, Rodgers looks a solid batsman, so a lot of pressure on Watson to come good with Khawaja/Hughes at first drop, and the other at 4 (unless Cowan comes in at 3), Khawaja is relatively untested and Hughes I suspect is still suceptible to a bit of short stuff bowling with one thats then pitched up or swings away.

That is the problem I see with australias top order, very inexperienced especially in english conditions. In Aus I expect a different thing.

Posted by   on (July 5, 2013, 8:03 GMT)

I really hate to disappoint you Aussies but I've sat through the last three days in the Sun at New Road watching your batsmen face an abject Worcester attack on a flat Worcester pitch - my brother's dog would have been mortified to have missed out!

Posted by jimbond on (July 5, 2013, 7:56 GMT)

@ Front-Foot-Lunge: And let me list others who were hiding down the order- Bradman, Sobers, Tendulkar, Steve Waugh, Mike Hussey etc. It takes as much if not more talent to score well from a no. 5 or 6 position, as from a no. 1 or 3. Temparamentally Clarke is suited to no. 5, scores most of his runs from that position, and he likes being there (and I guess his opponents will like it less if he is at no. 5). The selectors tasks is to get the appropriate batsmen for all the other positions. And as there is no great batsman deprived by Clarke of the no. 5 position, I guess the position is his. For the opening position, there are a large number of contenders, and hence the most appropriate have to be chosen.

Posted by Paul_Rampley on (July 5, 2013, 7:43 GMT)

Clarke is our number 1 batsman but he can't do it all on his own. Boof is doing a fantastic job as coach, already positive signs coming out of our batting unit with Hughes, Khawaja and Watson looking solid as well. I like Rogers, Watson, Khawaja, Clarke, Hughes as our top 5.

Posted by hycIass on (July 5, 2013, 7:35 GMT)

Clarke has been great so far but boof is the real difference, his coaching is already changing things. Clarke can't do it alone and like Fleming mitch i tip Watson and Khawaja to be the other guys who will make a big difference in the batting provided Khawaja can finally get his chance. I am also really looking forward to seeing Starc in England. He has always had the ability to produce unplayable balls, and unplayable spells. His first test in Brisbane against Sri Lanka was great. He knocked over the West Indies in an ODI in Perth with a spell that still sticks in my mind. I think he is the sleeper here. English conditions should be ideal for him.

Posted by valleypf on (July 5, 2013, 7:25 GMT)

Front-Foot-Lunge So you're saying Lehmann's incompetent. What a strange assertion after such a short time in the job! After all if he thought Clarke would be better up the order that's where he'd be. Isn't it?

Posted by   on (July 5, 2013, 7:15 GMT)

Jayzuz.. With similar conditions in India, England won by a big margin.. Even there we had two spinners opening the bowling.. You cant expect conditions to favor Australia or any other team wherever they go.. The purpose of a tour is to test the visiting team in foreign conditions.. A good squad can win anywhere and England proved that.. thats why they are no.1 now..

Posted by   on (July 5, 2013, 7:14 GMT)


Clarke has been batting at number 4. What are you talking about mate? scared now and got nothing else to say so you pick on the fact that's not really matter?

Posted by PrasPunter on (July 5, 2013, 7:01 GMT)

@Srinivasan Natarajan, we Aussies never "prepared" wickets the way you selectively watered your Madras wicket and made it look a country-side red-colored dust-bowl so that your so-called greatest spinners have a field-day. The whole world knew what you did to eng - had lesser players play them in the tour matches, prepared rank-turners etc - only for eng to turn it back onto you. I have said this many times and I will repeat it again - Eng, Aus and SA are the best test-playing nations , no matter what . Because these teams don't do the sort of tricks that your folks usually employ. Enough said ?

Posted by heathrf1974 on (July 5, 2013, 6:41 GMT)

This will help with morale for the side. Which was close to an all-time low in the history of Australian cricket.

Posted by Fleming_Mitch on (July 5, 2013, 6:34 GMT)

Boof is making all the right decisions, suddenly our batters such as Hughes, Khawaja and Watson who looked low on confidence look good now. I am predciting big series for Khawaja and Watson if he can get going as well. Siddle's selection is a tough one, yep he's been a bit slow to warm up but surely has the runs on the board to say "I'll stand up come the time of the first test"Bird is a great bowler, and he will play many test for AUS, but I'd take a tough wise head into the first test for this series, it's massive, and before you say Harris, well what if he breaks down though when fit Rhino is unplayable. Then who do you turn to to bowl the long spells? Starc? Patto? Tough decisions.

Posted by Amith_S on (July 5, 2013, 6:27 GMT)

Clarke showing how it should be done and we can win this series. But I am not as convinced about this English test side, Bell is not exceptional, Pietersen is coming back from major injury, Bairstow is untested and Root is very very young. Cook and Trott need to do well for England to do well. Broad has struggled this year and Swann is also coming back from major surgery. It's a good time to be playing the English side, they may not have these issues in 12 months. Rogers makes sense because Australia has a good chance of drawing or winning this series. Khawaja for me is our best young talent and he has shown in shield cricket that he can handle the moving ball and face on tough decks. I would suggest that the selectors and coach feel the same way and which is why i pick Rogers and Khawaja to be the main supporting cast to captain Clarke. And don't count out Watson, boof is bringing the best out of our batsman.

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge on (July 5, 2013, 6:27 GMT)

Clarke continues to hides down the order. You'd have thought after the Indian saga, where the entire world was calling for him to move above the bubble of 5 or 6, would have given him the kick he needed. Clarke's Aus best bat, they need him opening or those Ashes can be kissed goodbye before it's even begun.

Posted by Sunil_Batra on (July 5, 2013, 6:15 GMT)

Clarke is critical if we are going to win this ashes. With two Ashes series in 6 months, building to the future can be put on the backburner. I don't see the point of sacrificing the Ashes to blood youngsters who aren't ready yet but i can tell you that Khawaja and Hughes are ready. If we were heading into a series against some of the weaker test nations then it would make sense but the Ashes is the most important series to Australian cricket and we've got tow of them in such a short space of time. While our chances of winning either Ashes series are slim but we should give it a crack. We can rebuild after the Sydney test if need be.Obviously Rogers wont be a long-term selection but his form easily puts him in our best top 6 batsmen at the moment which is all anyone really has to do. Cowan hasn't done enough and failed again yesterday after getting dropped on 0. Surely its time to go for Watson, Rogers, Khawaja, Clarke, Hughes, Smith as our top 6.

Posted by   on (July 5, 2013, 6:13 GMT)

@Jayzuz, I only hope you remember the famous statement from Kumble "At the end of the day, it is only one team played with the spirit of the game"

Coming to the point, the pitch in India used for the contest did not misbehave, it consistently aided spin, that's it.

When Australia can prepare seamer friendly tracks (perth) and employ all pace bowling strategy, India does not complain. Hope you understand the point:-)

That's the bottom line.

Posted by   on (July 5, 2013, 5:56 GMT)

@jayzuz. Sick to death of people blaming horrid pitch conditions for India's series win (yes that's right... their win not Australia's loss). Yes spinners opened the bowling ans yes the pitches were suited to that but how is that different to any other series where Aus has toured India. And the reverse is also true... Aus curators always prepare bouncy tracks in their home conditions that suit their style of play. Plain and simple Australia's stocks are not what they once were. And more to that they are lacking enough quality leaders. Cases in point are Shane Watson and David Warner, both incredibly selfish and devoid of exhibiting behaviour that sets a good example for the rest of the team. Clarke needs support and hopefully Lehmann will provide that.

Posted by Jayzuz on (July 5, 2013, 4:59 GMT)

Clarke resigned from the selection duties of his own accord. He was not asked, and in fact the admin team tried to stop him. Blaming Clarke for one bad series in India is ridiculous given that he had led the team magnificently for 18 months before that, losing only 3 of 20 tests. The Indian thing was clearly primarily because of the pitch conditions. Since when have we seen two spinners opening the bowling in test matches elsewhere in modern times? Just absurd conditions served up by an opponent with no sense of where to draw the line with such things. But they got away with it, thanks to a weak ICC.

The Ashes will be a much better indicator of where the team is at, as England will not be able to resort to such extreme measures, given that the strengths and weakness of both teams are not as polarised as with the IND/AUS series (nor would they go to such extremes, I doubt).

Posted by palla.avinash on (July 5, 2013, 4:41 GMT)

watson,rogers,hughes,clarke,smith,haddin,faulkner,siddle,starc,pattinson,lyon best 11 available for 1st test.

Posted by GeoffreysMother on (July 5, 2013, 4:31 GMT)

So essentially Ausralia don't have a captain, just a guy who bats well and sets good field placings. Boof does the rest. Not a bad idea though. Now if Boof bats in place of Hughes ( and lets Hughes just do his skin fold tests) then England will really begin to worry.

Posted by farkin on (July 5, 2013, 3:22 GMT)

Not since the day Lehmann was appointed has Clarke been required to speak publicly. sack him and get a new captain that can handle the presser . as for

Darren Lehmann says he feels for predecessor Mickey Arthur . he is see the dross arthur had to deal with

Posted by   on (July 5, 2013, 3:21 GMT)

Watson, Rogers, Hughes, Clarke, Khawaja, Smith, Haddin should be the top 7 for the first test

Posted by YogifromNY on (July 5, 2013, 3:14 GMT)

Lehmann seems to have brought a lot of promising change to this Aussie side. As an Indian team supporter from the US, I was not looking forward to the Ashes even a month or so ago, as I thought it would be too one-sided in Eng's favor. But now, it seems Eng are going to find they will be in the scrap of their lives. I sure hope so. A strong Aussie team is exhilirating to watch and follow! Good on ya, Darren, mate!

Posted by Mary_786 on (July 5, 2013, 2:57 GMT)

Fantastic to see pup back to his best. My team based on the warm ups is Rogers, Watson, Khawaja, Hughes, Clarke, Warner, Haddin, Pattinson, Starc, Bird, Lyon for mine.Only doubt is Warner or Smith for 6. No chance of Lehmann padding up is there?

Posted by   on (July 5, 2013, 0:29 GMT)

The only sensible way to go about it. Clarke's shown himself to be a highly dubious leader of men off-field, but is a good and instinctive leader on the field. Taking away those other responsibilities he's ill-suited for and having him focus on actually winning matches only makes sense.

Posted by David_Boon on (July 5, 2013, 0:11 GMT)

I must say, Darren Lehmann is the best thing to happen to Australian cricket in a long, long time. Having Clarke practically running the show was a terrible idea, he has never been the most liked guy in the team to begin with. With Boof at the helm I would expect this team to turn things around fast.

Posted by BurntToast on (July 5, 2013, 0:00 GMT)

'Clarke's pressure valve released'? ...Good thing Michael took Mrs Clarke on tour.

Get back to making runs boys and bring that little urn home.

Posted by   on (July 4, 2013, 23:56 GMT)

good onya Boof:) Go Michael you good thing,

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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